Economics

The Conversion of Thomas Sowell

It wasn't until his thirties that the economist started to turn from Marxism.

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When Thomas Sowell arrived at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1959 to begin his Ph.D. studies, Milton Friedman had been on the faculty for more than a decade. But Sowell hadn't gone there to study under Friedman, and the University of Chicago hadn't been his first choice. The original plan was to pursue his doctorate at Columbia University, where he had just earned his master's degree, and study under another future Nobel economist, George Stigler.

As an undergraduate at Harvard in a course on the history of economic thought, Sowell had read an academic article by Stigler on the theories of the classical economist David Ricardo. Sowell was so taken by the subject matter, and so impressed by Stigler's command of it, that he turned his own focus toward the history of ideas and resolved to do his graduate work at Columbia under Stigler's guidance. After Stigler left Columbia in 1958 to join the faculty of the University of Chicago, Sowell followed him there.

Sowell hadn't been a big fan of the intellectual atmosphere at Columbia or at Harvard, his undergraduate school, and he was looking forward to a change of scenery. At Harvard, "smug assumptions were too often treated as substitutes for evidence or logic," he recalled. There was a tendency "to assume that certain things were so because we bright, good fellows all agreed that it was so." Sowell had little patience for such elitism. His classmates seemed to think they "could rise above reasons, and that to me," Sowell said, "was the difference between pride and arrogance, and between the rational and irrational." Nor did he ever quite adjust to the social atmosphere in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I resented attempts by some thoughtless Harvardians to assimilate me, based on the assumption that the supreme honor they could bestow was to allow me to become like them," he said. "I readily accepted all aspects of what Harvard had to offer that seemed worthwhile, and readily rejected all that struck me as nonsense. The fact that I was avidly reading W.E.B. Du Bois did not keep me from Shakespeare or Beethoven. Indeed, I noticed that Du Bois liked Shakespeare and Beethoven—and had attended Harvard."

It would be difficult to exaggerate the severity of the learning curve Sowell had faced when he entered college. It's not just that he hadn't been a full-time student in almost a decade. He also was unfamiliar with the basics of the academy to a degree that was startling but perhaps not unusual for someone who was the first in his family to reach seventh grade.

Before transferring to Harvard, he had attended night classes at Howard University, a historically black institution in Washington, D.C. "As an example of my academic naivete at this point, when I heard professors referred to as 'doctor' I thought they were physicians and marveled at their versatility in mastering both medicine and history or medicine and math," he later wrote. "It came as a revelation to me that there was education beyond college, and it was some time before I was clear whether an M.A. was beyond a Ph.D. or vice versa. Certainly, I had no plans to get either."

Sowell's issues with his fellow undergraduates also may have stemmed to some degree from their age differences. He was 25 when he entered Harvard, had been on his own since leaving home at 17, and had already completed a stint in the Marines. Thus, he was not only older than the typical college freshman but also had significant experience living in the real world. His year at Columbia, a school he described as "a sort of watered-down version of Harvard intellectually," was only a slight improvement.

By contrast, the University of Chicago was "itself," he recalled, "and not an imitation of anything." The Chicago economics department was extremely demanding, and the vetting was brutal, said Ross Emmett, an authority on the history of the Chicago school of economics. "During that period of time, Harvard took in 25–27 students and graduated 25 of them, whereas Chicago took in 70 students and graduated 25 of them." The department also had a reputation for being conservative, and Sowell's political views at the time were, in his words, "still strongly left wing and very much under the influence of Marx." Nevertheless, he had no qualms about leaving Columbia for Chicago: "I was far more impressed by the fact that we shared similar intellectual values." Graduate economics "is a technical field and not an ideological battleground," he reasoned. "As I came to understand the Chicago views on economic policy, they seemed less and less like any conservatism that I knew about."

The interest in Karl Marx had started in Sowell's late teens, after he purchased a secondhand set of encyclopedias that included an entry on the German philosopher. It's not hard to contemplate why a black person born during the Great Depression in the Jim Crow South and then raised in urban ghettos might find the precepts of Marxism persuasive. The cruel capitalists, the greedy bourgeoisie, the oppressed masses, the coming revolution that will finally relieve the struggling proletariat from despair—this outlook had a certain appeal to Sowell. "These ideas seemed to explain so much and they explained it in a way to which my grim experience made me very receptive," he later wrote.

Back then, young Tommy was eking out a living as a messenger for Western Union. "When I left home, I had not finished high school and had a number of these low-level jobs," he said. "It was a trying time. I had always been in school and so on, and this was starting at the very bottom."

His job was located in Lower Manhattan, and after work he usually took the subway back up to Harlem, where most of New York City's black population lived. Occasionally, however, Sowell would ride home atop one of the city's double-decker buses and marvel at the shifting urban landscape as he headed north. The bus traveled up 5th Avenue, past the upscale department stores that catered to the wealthy. At 57th Street it would turn left, pass by Carnegie Hall, snake around Columbus Circle, proceed up Broadway, and continue north on Riverside Drive through affluent residential neighborhoods. "And then somewhere around 120th Street, it would go across a viaduct and onto 135th Street, where you had the tenements," he said. "And that's where I got off. The contrast between that and what I'd been seeing most of the trip really baffled me. And Marx seemed to explain it." In his 1985 book on Marxism, Sowell wrote that the philosopher "took the overwhelming complexity of the real world and made the parts fall into place, in a way that was intellectually exhilarating."

Sowell would self-identify as a Marxist throughout his 20s. His senior thesis at Harvard was on Marxian economics, and his master's thesis at Columbia was on Marxian business cycle theory. Even his first scholarly publication, in the March 1960 issue of American Economic Review, was on the writings of Karl Marx. But like many others who are attracted to Marxist philosophy in their youth, Sowell would abandon it as he became older and more experienced.

It helped that he was never a doctrinaire thinker to begin with and kept an open mind. "I read everything across the political spectrum" in those days, he said. "I understood that there were reasons why people have different views, as I see even today, that it's not just a question of being on the side of the angels and against the forces of evil." Even "at the height of my Marxism," he continued, "I read William F. Buckley and Edmund Burke, because I'd gotten in school, particularly in a ninth-grade science class, the idea of evidence, the importance of evidence and the need to test evidence. That was always there."

Perhaps that's what made him such a good fit years later for Chicago, where the importance of thinking empirically wasn't merely stressed but written in stone. The University of Chicago's Social Science Research Building, which housed the economics department, had an edited version of Lord Kelvin's dictum etched over the entrance: "When you cannot measure, your knowledge is meager and unsatisfactory." The idea was that theorizing is necessary but insufficient. Data and evidence are needed to verify what we think we know.

Sowell had been thinking like a Chicago economist before he ever set foot on campus.

Friedman and Stigler were hardly the only scholars of future renown that Sowell was exposed to in his student days, even if he didn't always appreciate it at the time. His professors also included Gary Becker and Friedrich Hayek, who would both win Nobels and profoundly impact Sowell's own scholarship. Becker did pioneering research on the economics of racial bias, and Sowell told me that "anything that dealt with discrimination on my part was within the framework of what Becker had said." Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions, which he and other economists count among his best professional work, was inspired by a 1945 academic paper by Hayek on how societies function.

Still, there is a case to be made that no one had a greater impact on Sowell's career path than Stigler and Friedman. They were his instructors and his mentors. They served on his dissertation committee and even helped him with material needs. When a problem arose with Sowell's student aid and he contemplated leaving graduate school to find a job, it was Stigler who, without Sowell's knowledge, secured a generous grant for promising academics from the Earhart Foundation. Sowell later said that grant "enabled me to complete the studies that led to my receiving a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and to having a career as an economist." And it was Friedman who, years later, brought Sowell to the attention of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where he became a senior fellow in 1980 after he left teaching. Both Friedman and Stigler saw something in Sowell early on that led them to nurture his development as a scholar.

Richard Ware, the longtime head of the Earhart Foundation, recalled receiving the grant request for Sowell. The foundation held Stigler and Friedman in such high regard that the Sowell recommendation was basically rubber-stamped. "When he got nominated, the letter was very short. I don't know whether Stigler signed it or Friedman or both of them," said Ware. "They nominated him for the fellowship, and they said he's a socialist, but he's too smart to remain one too long. That was the way they put it to the trustees."

Given that some nine winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics have been Earhart fellows, the foundation obviously had a nose for talent. "Friedman and Stigler say give him a fellowship, we give him a fellowship," said Ware. "That's the way we did the program, totally on [that] basis. I think Tom should have a Nobel Prize. I'm not sure he'll ever get one."

According to Sowell, he didn't abandon socialism because he was bamboozled by his Chicago professors. What ultimately began his drift to the political right was a summer job at the U.S. Department of Labor in the summer of 1960: "The job paid more than I had ever made before, enabling me to enjoy a few amenities of life," he said. "Inadvertently, it also played a role as a turning point in my ideological orientation. After a year at the University of Chicago, including a course from Milton Friedman, I remained as much of a Marxist as I had been before arriving. However, the experience of seeing government at work from the inside and at a professional level started me to rethinking the whole notion of government as a potentially benevolent force in the economy and society. From there on, as I learned more and more from both experience and research, my adherence to the visions and doctrines of the left began to erode rapidly with the passage of time."

At the Labor Department, Sowell was tasked with analyzing the sugar industry in Puerto Rico, where the U.S. government ran a program that set minimum wages for workers. He noticed that over a certain period, as the minimum wage had been raised, employment had fallen. At the time, he was a supporter of minimum wage laws out of a belief that they helped the poor earn a decent living. But faced with the facts, he started to wonder whether minimum wage laws were pricing people out of jobs.

He also noticed that his coworkers, the department's permanent staff, didn't much care either way. "It forced me to realize that government agencies have their own self-interest to look after, regardless of those for whom a program has been set up," he wrote. "Administration of the minimum wage law was a major part of the Labor Department's budget and employed a significant fraction of all the people who worked there. Whether or not minimum wages benefited workers may have been my overriding question, but it was clearly not theirs."

It was this realization, not a lecture at the University of Chicago, that made him "want to re-think the larger question of the role of government in general," he recalled. "The more other government programs I looked into, over the years, the harder I found it to believe that they were a net benefit to society."

Sowell came to his free market beliefs by way of reflection and observation. But then, so did Friedman and Stigler, who both spoke of having liberal political inclinations in their student days. Sowell's readers often express surprise when they discover that he started out as a Marxist, but Sowell said he suspected that at least half his colleagues at the conservative Hoover Institution were also on the left in their 20s.

That's certainly true of any number of notable black dissident thinkers, from Clarence Thomas and Shelby Steele to Walter Williams, Glenn Loury, and Robert Woodson, who have faced regular attacks from black liberals and other critics often far more interested in questioning their motives than in addressing their arguments.

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Economics Thomas Sowell Marxism Free Markets

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147 responses to “The Conversion of Thomas Sowell

  1. It seems like his story could be made into a great movie.

    Given his political leanings, it won’t, of course.

    1. Needs more tits and violence. And can we throw in a car sequence from Harvard to Chicago were Sowell is hounded by White Supremacist MAGA hat wearers?

      1. Of course, in the end, the Sowell character will have to renounce free markets and get woke.

        1. Starring Jesse Smolette and special guest Meryl Streep as Rosa Parks.

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          2. It will be mandatory to find a male/female role for Elliot Page, of course.

            MAN-DA-TORY.

      2. +1 for tits and explosions.

        1. I’d say blow up Elliot Page but then we’re still short the tits.

      3. Indeed. I’ll see if I can locate some (white) Nigerians.
        “The Left is so desperate to show white supremacy they must invent some.” — Dennis Prager

      4. I am always appalled by the vulgarity exhibited by contributors and will not respond to their comments even when warranted.
        I wish “Reason”readers would show some class and
        not their ass.

    2. If that’s a crime then we should lock up the editorial boards of the New York Times and everyone else the whole thing is a complete sham.more detail………….CLICK HERE.

    3. His job was located in Lower Manhattan, and after work he usually took the subway back up to Harlem, where most of New York City’s black population lived. Occasionally,.more detail………….CLICK HERE.

    4. “black dissident thinkers” that’s harsh. Look, I don’t like the whole ‘Capital Black, lower–case white’ thing, but it’s a little sleazy to call Republican Black People ‘dissidents’. For 1 thing, about 20% of all Black men are Republicans, so while it’s a relatively small percentage, it’s not negligible. Most of these guys are just rank and file partisans. Not even conservatives, let alone ‘libertarians’ (which has always been newspeak, anyway). If the government is the problem, why are the ‘Conservatives’ always exploding its size? Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Trump 32 of 52 years (60%) in office and average government growth = 6% (inflation-adjusted) average economic growth = 1% (inflation-adjusted). ‘Conservatism’ and ‘Libertarianism’ are the G-Ds that have failed us…

    5. True. The urban Liberal Plantation has been maintained successfully by preaching unchalleged Marxist doctrine to the urban masses. Pathetic.

  2. However, the experience of seeing government at work from the inside and at a professional level started me to rethinking the whole notion of government as a potentially benevolent force in the economy and society. From there on, as I learned more and more from both experience and research, my adherence to the visions and doctrines of the left began to erode rapidly with the passage of time.

    And there’s the problem with much of government – too many bureaucrats go straight from college to working for the government and all they know is their theories of how the world works and no experience with how the world works in practice.

    It should be a requirement that anybody who wants to run other people’s lives have some experience in running their own outside of government. Make them open a lemonade stand, a sandwich shop, a lawn-mowing or a baby-sitting or a house-keeping service, some kind of business of their own and make them follow all the rules – the zoning laws, OSHA, DoL, IRS, the city, state, and federal laws – and see what they’re dealing with. I suspect they’re going to have a whole new perspective on how government “helps” people.

    1. I would make them start by spending a year in a proverbial deserted island setting, and keeping themselves alive using their own physical efforts.

    2. “And there’s the problem with much of government – too many bureaucrats go straight from college to working for the government and all they know is their theories of how the world works and no experience with how the world works in practice.”

      That certainly is a problem. But I tend to agree that the fundamental problem is the one described in the article. Their experience working in government does teach them how the world works in practice, and in practice it’s mostly about finding a way to earn a living and then making sure you keep earning that living – aka – guarding your rice bowl.

      In a market economy job that means serving your customers needs efficiently. In a government job that means protecting the “mission” even if that mission is worthless or counterproductive.

    3. “And there’s the problem with much of government – too many bureaucrats go straight from college to working for the government and all they know is their theories of how the world works and no experience with how the world works in practice…”

      Pretty sure it was in “Colonists and Cultures” where Sowell points out that local capitalism was nowhere promoted by colonists, so post colonial bright kids saw government work as the avenue to wealth; we got what the colonists had sown.

    4. George McGovern learned that lesson last in life……

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/06/14/how-to-create-jobs-by-george-mcgovern/?sh=739282cc34f0

      FTA…..

      “In 1988, I invested most of the earnings from this lecture circuit acquiring the leasehold on Connecticut’s Stratford Inn. … In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business, especially during a recession of the kind that hit New England just as I was acquiring the inn’s 43-year leasehold. I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”

      McGovern learned the hard way. And I respect him for admitting that publicly. A lot of democrats never would.

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      2. I wouldn’t give him too much credit. He also straight-up admitted that he and the far left wanted the US to lose the Vietnam War, and all of their activism was directed towards accomplishing that.

        There’s not much difference between people like him and the enabling of the New Left, and the Boomers/Gen-Xers who have done the same with the wokesters. All of the divisiveness and degeneracy in this country can be laid directly at their feet.

    5. Especially in the military — actually, why do we want teenagers in the military at all — isn’t that inherently creepy. Why doesn’t the military recruit from the best of the best — from plumbers and electricians to competitive marksmen etc.?

      I often hear ‘if not for joining the Marines, I would have wound up in jail’. Yeah, that’s not where I want my government recruiting from… And then THAT pipeline to the police forces of the country thereafter ?!

  3. By far the best news of the 2021 so far: Florida bans the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” in their schools.

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/10/us/critical-race-theory-florida-ban-trnd/index.html

    Good on Florida for telling Block Insane Yomomma and all his pathetic, sorry-ass little whitey-hatin’, America hatin’ minions to go fuck themselves straight in their own earholes. Moving to Florida is looking better and better every single day.

    1. Even if you agree with its CRT stance, moving to Florida is absurdly reckless. By any objective measure, that state has had the worst pandemic response. (New York has had the best.)

      #LibertariansForCuomo

      1. Which Cuomo do you reject?

        #LibertariansForCuomos

      2. Well, Cuomo and New York certainly did the most to promote solvency for Social Security.

        1. It’s exactly that outside-the-box thinking that makes Cuomo America’s Best Governor!

        2. Cuomo engaged his own internal death panels.

          1. Not only that, but he also inspired some of the most extreme Bizarro World sarcasm ever recorded. Pretty sure it’s over 9,000.

  4. “However, the experience of seeing government at work from the inside and at a professional level started me to rethinking the whole notion of government as a potentially benevolent force in the economy and society.”

    Our society has an information problem, but it isn’t corporate money in politics. It’s a media that assigns good and evil to politicians without doing the hard work of evaluating their policies and holding them accountable for their outcomes.

    Our media does a better job of holding a president accountable for his ridiculous statements as a game show host, than for his 40+ years of failed policies.

    Instead of repealing the first amendment and proposing political censorship to get corporate money out of politics, they would serve the public better by requiring the media to seriously study the policies enacted and their actual affects on society. And that’s exactly why politicians love the former and hate the latter: they don’t want a more informed public. They just want less competition and more control.

    1. More fundamentally, our society has an intellectual problem. They themselves assign good or evil to all ideas, based mostly on tribal affiliations and emotional reasoning. Even if they wanted to, media producers would not likely dislodge people from their righteous positions. And of course, reporters and editors are themselves tribal, and see more returns, financial and social, from feeding their chosen biases.

      1. “and social”

        Right now this seems to be a stronger factor than the money.

        1. I suspect the ratio of righteousness to mercenary motivation varies from the reporters to the publishers.

      2. Good thing Republicans aren’t so petty as to blast police reform because the left wants it, blindly support trade wars because their leader wants them, and disregard the 1A because they feel miffed by Facebook and Twitter.

        Glad at least one tribe is above all that bullshit.

        1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

        2. What a completely original and unexpected response from sarc!

        3. If there’s one thing you can say about Republicans, especially Trump Republicans, is they stick to their principles.

          1. It’s too bad you don’t understand those words. This is understandable, you have no soul.

          2. Neutral, non-partisan Mikey chimes in with his….verbal orts and droppings.

        4. “disregard the 1A because they feel miffed by Facebook and Twitter

          Only sarcasmic could be so fucking dumb as to pretend that the Democrats ordering Twitter and Facebook to censor the news, was a positive first amendment exercise.

          DNC – “Ban the Post from talking about Hunter’s laptop, and ban virologists who talk about the lab origins of Covid”

          sarcasmic – “They’re defending the First Amendment”

          Fucking bizarre.

      3. I think you find that the happiest people are the most open minded. Rigid thinking leads to bitterness and resentment. There is always a “they” out there trying to destroy “us”.

        1. Very true. I can only imagine how miserable it must be to be a Trumpista.

          1. Look up the term ‘irony’, interesting concept.

            1. Maybe if every day I got outraged while trolling Twitter, and spent my time being nasty to people who aren’t Trumpistas, that might be, you know, ‘ironic.’

              1. No one is doing that. In your case, you spend your days as a bitter, broken alcoholic. Valueless, unloved, disrespected, and unworthy of love and respect.

                In regards to your alcoholism, what is your functional BAC? .1%? .15%?

                1. What evidence do you see that at any level he’s “functional”?

    2. “they would serve the public better by requiring the media to seriously study the policies enacted and their actual affects on society”

      Who is the “they” and how, practically, would one go about requiring media to seriously study policies?

      1. They would be politicians trying to repeal the first amendment.

        I think it’s telling that those authoritarian politicians are interested in censorship and not at all in quality requirements on information.

        1. The politicians themselves don’t do any serious studies of the policies and bills they are enacting and voting on. I’m not sure what could be done to make legislators actually read bills, but that would be a good starting place.

          1. I’m always amazed that the newspapers can distill an 800-page bill down to a paragraph or two without any hint that there might be a few more things in the bill than what they’re reporting on. And all the typical Congressman really cares about is that that 800-page bill includes a provision greasing his palm with an earmark or two.

          2. And Orange Man bad, right TDS-addled asshole?

          3. Pretty sure they’d just have the lobbyists who wrote the legislation read it off to them. Right after the nightly bj-and-hot-chocolate the lobbyists normally provide.

        2. You get to place two votes on a bill instead of one, if you can prove in a pop quiz that you actually read it?

    3. media that assigns good and evil to politicians without doing the hard work of evaluating their policies and holding them accountable for their outcomes.

      Not only that, the media believes the scumbags’ claims of what their motivations are, when they’re obviously lying through their teeth.

      -jcr

  5. I certainly agree that Marxism is bad.

    However, if there’s one major American political party that’s closer to the Marxist “screw the rich” ideology, these days it’s definitely the Republicans. Last time they were in power, billionaires struggled to increase their net worths. In fact Reason.com’s benefactor Charles Koch lost $5 billion in 2020, the last full year with a Republican President.

    Now that the pro-corporation, pro-billionaire Democrats are in charge, the richest people on the planet are prospering once again.

    #VoteDemocratToHelpBillionaires

  6. God bless and keep Thomas Sowell, and God bless and keep the University of Chicago.

    Lord Kelvin’s more complete quote:

    “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”

    1. Kelvin was certainly brilliant, but also serves as a warning against assuming we know enough to be right. In perhaps his most famous error, the age of the earth, he could measure thermal gradients below the surface, and the thermodynamic properties of materials, but his conclusion that the earth could be no older than a few million years (based on the model of a cooling, once-molten planet) did not include the role of heat from radioactive decay (nor the convection of material within the earth).

      1. Is it really an error when you don’t know radioactivity even exists?

        1. As a scientist, I say yes. Wrong is wrong, no matter the reason. We can only honestly claim that any conclusion is the best we can do with current knowledge. In other words, actual science is never “settled”.

          1. Very true, so, since he didn’t state dogmatically “The Earth is just this old, no more, no less.” his estimate was not in error. And, given that the age estimates back in that era ranged between “infinitely old” and “six thousand years old”, it’s not even that bad of a guess.

    2. He is absolutely right, for all the subjects of study where numbers can be applied. Unfortunately, there are many subjects that are not conducive to being analyzed numerically.

      1. Really? Like what?

      2. “Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”
        ― Richard P. Feynman

        1. Feynman was the best.

    3. Honestly that was the worst thing I read in this otherwise great article. Not every discipline is conducive to mathematics, including economics. There are no constant relationships in economics that can be expressed in mathematical functions. See eg Hazlitt’s critique of Keynes “The Failure of the New Economics.”

  7. ‘At Harvard, “smug assumptions were too often treated as substitutes for evidence or logic,” he recalled. There was a tendency “to assume that certain things were so because we bright, good fellows all agreed that it was so.” Sowell had little patience for such elitism.’

    Actually, this is not fundamentally elitism, at least in the intellectual sense. All people and groups, from families and neighborhoods to political parties and religions, base most of their core values on shared assumptions. And they assume they are correct, not because they are “bright” but because they are “right”.

    1. You blew up your own assertion in the course of two short paragraphs.

      Don’t see that very often.

      Let me help you. Compare what you said about shared assumptions “not” being because they are bright with what the original quote says there elitism “…because we bright, good fellows agreed it was so.”

      It very much was an elitist attitude. They fundamentally misunderstood why they were at these highly selective institutions. They were allowed entrance based upon their capacity to learn, not on their innate ability to know the answers.

      1. Perhaps what I should have said is that such behavior is not exclusively elitist. Lots of people have shared assumptions, and many of those people vigorously reject any elitist labels.

        But thanks for being condescending.

        1. “…many of those people vigorously reject any elitist labels.”

          Everyone rejects the elitist label.

          “But thanks for being condescending.”

          It’s a gift.

  8. “It helped that he was never a doctrinaire thinker to begin with and kept an open mind.”

    I wonder if this, as distinct from other intellectual abilities, is what really enables people like Sowell–and is perhaps the most rare of human abilities.

  9. Kindergarten Economics —
    In a civilized society…..
    1) Threatening People at the point of Gov-Guns should NOT equal wealth.
    2) In a free society; A Persons VALUE to society (‘others’) will be rewarded to the exact tune of that VALUE provided by wealth.

    Speaking of ‘net’ benefit to society should the criminals (Gun threats) be rewarded and the benefactors be punished? Does that even sound like a ‘net’ benefit or a path to a civilized society??

    What kind of commie-indoctrination does it take to turn generally reasonable creatures into completely unreasonable criminals. Greed?

    1. “Greed?”

      Lol. Remove merit/productivity-based compensation and see how quickly people turn to group-judged, virtue-based compensation and become “unreasonable criminals”. And the answer is “all the quickly”.

      This is because, as opposed to fungible goods or fiat currency, “virtue” can be produced instantly, in limitless amounts. Look how much virtue is produced on social media every day!!

      Also, I defy you to examine the economic model of Twitch and devise a model of “value to society” that explains it.

      1. Deserves a repost A+++

        “Remove merit/productivity-based compensation and see how quickly people turn to group-judged, virtue-based compensation and become “unreasonable criminals”.

        [WE] Mob Democratic virtue + Gov-Guns = Wealth 🙂

  10. the economist started to turn from Marxism

    What’s an article like this doing in my neo-Reason? After the Freddie deBoer interview, I thought that Marxism was now de rigueur for fashionable Reason “libertarians”.

    1. At least mostly peaceful Marxism.

      1. Where’s the damn “+1/thumbs up/like” button, dammit?

    2. Literally every policy Reason supports — open borders, $0.00 / hour minimum wage, no tariffs, etc. — is intended to make billionaires even richer. That’s pretty much the opposite of Marxism.

      1. Who’s gonna *give* the billionaires their riches if they can’t use Gov-Guns to steal it? — that is Marxism..

        If you’re so *jealous* and *envious* why don’t you go do what the billionaire did to *earn* their wealth. (Who’s stopping you; besides yourself?)

        U do realize that wealth inequality is FAR-WORSE is Marxist-leaning China right?

        Do you think the Gov-Gods should have the almighty power to stamp a price-tag on YOUR forehead?

        Perhaps instead of saying the [WE] foundation the impact would be more ‘lefty’ understanding to say….

        Sell your Individual souls to the Gov-Gods. Because you don’t own you; the Gov-Gods own you.

      2. It’s intended to make everyone richer which is also the opposite of Marxism.

        1. … The DC swamp sucking up all the peoples wealth and producing valueless nothingness except wealthy authoritarian, dictators, and crooks.

    3. I think we stumbled into a way back version of Buckley-O’Sullivan Era National Review

  11. “he’s a socialist, but he’s too smart to remain one too long.”

    Well that certainly explains the issue with the writers here.

    1. That’s the saddest part. If you read old Reason articles from the 70’s and 80’s, the writing was effervescent and the intellect was blindingly bright.

      The writers assumed that their readership was intelligent and didn’t talk down to them or try to sensationalize the current news.

      Nowadays it’s largely clickbait and bien-pensant liberal tropes packaged for teenage thinking, by writers whose talents are better suited for Tiger Beat… or Bustle.

      1. And Coca Cola tasted better. It was more fizzy and they used real cane sugar instead of corn syrup.

        Now I just buy the stuff from Mexico.

        1. You try so fucking hard

          1. S/he just WANTS to be accepted!

        2. I buy a bunch of soft drinks before Passover, when the soda companies run a few batches use real sugar, without corn syrup.

          Some people stock up on wine, I stock up on ginger ale and cola, then serve when good guests visit.

      2. Tiger Beat is currently running a series on “De-Colonising Your Vagina”.

  12. “when I heard professors referred to as ‘doctor’ I thought they were physicians ”
    That’s still what the media newsreaders are hoping you’ll think every time they refer to DOCTOR Jill Biden.

    1. Maybe. Maybe they are hoping people will not know the difference in time spent, and academic rigor between a professional doctorate, and a doctor of philosophy. Or understand what they qualify one to do.

      Nobody gets a PhD within three years of a baccalaureate. And being qualified to be a high school principle is not the same as being qualified to be a university professor.

      But if you are going to call an EdD ‘doctor’ then you damned well better start calling attorneys ‘doctor’ as well.

      1. The funny thing is that if people went by the social status hierarchy where these rules came from, they’d know that “Professor” is a higher-ranked title than “Doctor,” who is only called something different from a plumber in case someone chokes on a plane.

    2. Well neither is Dr. Dre but I don’t mind calling him that.

  13. They give out Nobel prizes to milquetoast community activists who cosplayed as senators and presidents for doing nothing at all.

    Dr Sowell should keep it a badge of honor that they would rather give Krugman one for his partisan obsequiousness.

  14. “…”They nominated him for the fellowship, and they said he’s a socialist, but he’s too smart to remain one too long. That was the way they put it to the trustees.”…”

    Old commies are those holding power and gaining from it, or stupid ones, or those watching from the outside.

    1. To me, the quote say more about the morality of the conservatives that nominated Sowell, and the morality of conservatives in general compared to liberals. It also shows a difference in tolerance.
      Especially when you consider how liberals in colleges, including the professors, usually run out anyone challenging their beliefs, all to the approval of Democrats and socialists.

  15. https://twitter.com/Pride/status/1402326205538336773?s=19

    The Progress #Pride #LGBTQ+ flag has been updated to be more inclusive and to better represent the intersex community. RT if you like the new design! #Pride2021 [graphic]

    1. And if every town hall doesn’t fly the new one instead, they’re practically Hitler.

      The brown is the most apt color on there though. Just sayin’.

      1. I had some questions about that, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answers.

    2. Just as a piece of design it’s awful.

    3. So Nardz Sowell gets called an uncle Tom or a house n word every now and then.

      How often are you called them?

      I can’t wait to see Urban run the Jags into the ground. Poor Lawrence.

      Whatever. Most of their fans are pathetic hicks.

      1. Asshole flag

    4. That’s an abomination, but it’s also not doing you any harm.

      Unless you’re an extremely emotionally fragile person.

      1. You’re apologizing for this asshole, Tony? Is this truly how much you hate yourself?

    5. They are fatshaming by not having thicker lines above thinner lines, the clingers will get what’s coming to them when the boot of progress is on their neck!

      1. Pretty generous of you to pass on mentioning the rampant “pastel privilege” too.

    6. I dunno, it all seems pretty faggoty to me.

      1. Cram it traitor

        1. I leave the treason to leftwards like you. I’m a patriot, and a real American. You’re a traitor, and your status as human is highly questionable.

    7. I remember when it was edgy and punk to be GLB and the gay clubs had the best music and cheap drinks and beers. Back then, tits and dick were craved, bodies were natural, and gender was valued. The rainbow flag was then a sign of provocative joy. .

      Now they’re LGBLT+%#, corporate conformists with sponsorship deals and shitty music, no one is edgy or punk or fun. They’re so woke, they hate men and women and think children should be surgically altered. The flags are signs of craven degeneracy now and no longer worth displaying.

      1. +1!!

  16. I like the story of when W E B Debois visited the USSR. Of course as a black American, Debois had the letters ‘Col’ stamped on his passport. The silly Russians misunderstood and called him Colonel Dubois.

    1. And I’m sure you have a cite for that.

      1. It’s a cite for sore eyes. I’m sure you won’t bother to read it.

        http://library.lol/fiction/8F4C5A68200D6E11460420A821F9F783

        1. Not clicking a link for a LOL domain. Seems like a way to get computer syphilis.

          1. Try your library.

            The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes. Biography of Dmitri Shostakovich.

          2. trueman has avoided providing any evidence for his normal piles of shit; you would be well advised to assume it’s booby-trapped.

  17. We all know the guy who went from raging drunk to obnoxious teetotaler. When you’re not very bright, Marxism and libertarianism are more similar than different. Substitute one all-encompassing narrative for another. The problem is needing one all-encompassing narrative, not the particulars.

    This is just a bunch of sad gobbledygook. He has a problem with government agencies being self-interested (presumably meaning accountable to the people), so therefore let’s cede all the power to for-profit corporate bosses!

    If you aren’t even expected to have the people’s well-being in mind, then nobody can blame you for being self-interested, is that it?

    1. “Substitute one all-encompassing narrative for another. The problem is needing one all-encompassing narrative, not the particulars.”

      The relevant text is “The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer.

      It is possible to be a moderate libertarian. I’m not sure if there are moderate Marxists.

      1. I don’t think there are any Marxists.

        1. You.
          Are.
          Full.
          Of.
          Shit.

        2. Exactly where do you you get off calling Sowell a raging drunk, you raging drunk.

          1. I had always thought Tony’s cluelessness was of a pretty ordinary variety, but nah. He thinks he is in some way qualified, by education intelligence or habit of thought, to judge the production of Dr. Sowell’s intellect. This is much, much farther from reality than his usual idiocy, and I’m not sure if it’s more alarming or perversely impressive.

    2. “We all know the guy who went from raging drunk to obnoxious teetotaler…”

      Yes, and we all know the asshole drunk too stupid to reform, such as shitstain here.
      Now, shitstain, read this (again) and perhaps you’ll realized why you’re held in such disdain here:
      “…”They nominated him for the fellowship, and they said he’s a socialist, but he’s too smart to remain one too long. That was the way they put it to the trustees.”…”
      No, no one here expects you to ever be smart enough to be other than the parasitic piece of lefty shit you are.

    3. Bottom Tony hates Black people, enjoy the silence.

  18. The biggest take away from this article is that if you ar black and not a hard core progressive, then you are a dissident.

    That’s certainly true of any number of notable black dissident thinkers, from Clarence Thomas and Shelby Steele to Walter Williams, Glenn Loury, and Robert Woodson

    1. Not one of these ‘dissidents’ has been shot to death by the police or anyone else. That treatment is reserved for the black mainstream.

      1. Waitwaitwait…are you saying the black intellectuals you admire are Jacob Blake, Micheal Brown, George Floyd, etc, etc??

        Or are you bringing us welcome news about Ibrahim Kendi, famous landlord” Patrice Collours, or honorary well-paid-black person Robin DeAngelo.

        Coz I’m not seeing all the shootings there. yet.

    2. Those guys are dissidents? What jail are they in and where can I write them?

    3. Look who’s noticing race.

      1. Look who’s trying to avoid facts.

  19. Yeah, he abandoned Marxism at about the same time that communists and socialists were getting their asses kicked by cops and thugs when they were saying that people of his melatonin content should be treated just like everyone else. Then, he went on to side with cops and fascists in the Nixon and Reagan administration who believed— as he did apparently— that Black people pretty much couldn’t hack it. He’s a real fucking hero.

    1. Apparently, only American black people could not hack it. Recent immigrants from Nigeria and the Caribbean seemed to do OK. Must be some epigenetic thing from the slave quarters.

      But go on with your narrative, and quest for political domination.

    2. “Yeah, he abandoned Marxism at about the same time that communists and socialists were getting their asses kicked by cops and thugs…”

      Steaming piles of lefty shit will invent ANY lie in order to avoid admitting they’re history’s most evil assholes.

    3. The fight for racial equality happened long before Communists and Socialists made the U.S. political scene. Communists and Socialists just glommed on to this struggle and have always regarded minorities as pet projects instead of sovereign, responsible beings.

      1. “Communists and Socialists just glommed on to this struggle and have always regarded minorities as pet projects instead of sovereign, responsible beings.”

        This is not true. American communists didn’t just glom on to anti-racism. They did so under orders from Stalin. He was the head of the Comintern at the time and beset by activists from all over the world seeking his stamp of approval so they could call themselves the real communists. So he had several delegations from NYC seeking approval and Stalin said he wasn’t approving no one until American blacks were welcomed in the party with equal standing. The CPUSA became America’s first integrated party thanks to comrade Stalin.

        1. Fucking Liar! Black Republicans gained congressional seats during the Reconstruction. The GOP was the ONLY place of political refuge for black people, and you have to make the herculean effort to take the leftist cock out of your mouth to lie about black republicans during Reconstruction.

          1. ” Black Republicans gained congressional seats during the Reconstruction”
            They weren’t communists or socialists. The CPUSA were communists and socialists. And they integrated because Comrade Stalin told them to. Until Comrade Stalin stepped in communist organization in America consisted almost entirely of disputatious Latvians from New York.

            “The GOP was the ONLY place of political refuge for black people”

            F***ING LIAR! Not true. American blacks fled to Mexico and Canada to escape oppression and enslavement. Escaped slaves made up something like a third of the population of Chatham Ontario in the first half of the 19th century. It earned the nickname of the Black Mecca.
            Also, the Republican ideal as Lincoln would have it was not integration. His idea was to ship ex slaves back to Africa. This is the opposite of the policy Stalin imposed on America’s would be communists.

    4. Cum faced socialist attempts to be Black but she’s the same whore as before.

  20. Now this a big disappointment!… An Article on a distinguished free-market academic superstar and Rev. Artie isn’t here to cast aspersion on academic records or flourish his cape and say: “Carry on, Clingers!”

    1. Oh he’ll be around shit posting on Volokh and pretending to be a lawyer without evidence.

    2. “a distinguished free-market academic superstar”

      You mean the distinguished free-market academic superstar who warned us that the bubble would burst back in 2008? You mean he didn’t?

      1. He whiffed on his Super Bowl prediction that year too. Dang. Disqualified then.

        How’d you do?

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